The NBA playoffs have challenged the Indiana Pacers over and over again. As such, the Pacers may not feel too bad about their current position in the playoffs as of May 25. However, overcoming adversity against the Miami Heat is different than overcoming the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards -- especially after Indiana blew another chance to bury the two-time NBA champions in Game 3 on May 24.
The Heat's 99-87 victory came after the Pacers jumped to a 37-22 lead in the second quarter. Miami was stumbling all over itself and looked more vulnerable than ever, yet Indiana took its foot off the gas far too early. Just as the Pacers may live to regret the last minutes of Game 2 on May 20, they may forever regret the last two-and-a-half quarters of Game 3.
The Heat cut their deficit to 42-38 at halftime, then rolled over the Pacers in the third quarter by 33-22. What's more, not only did LeBron James and Dwayne Wade show their customary dominance in this series, Ray Allen woke up as well for 16 second-half points. In contrast, Paul George was relatively quiet after his concussion scare, scoring 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
Despite being up by 15 early, it was the Pacers who were down by 15 late in Game 3. Once more in these NBA playoffs, Indiana showed glimpses of its brilliant early season form, before inexplicably falling apart. It didn't cost the Pacers in the end against the Hawks and Wizards, but giving the Heat so many second chances is very ill advised.
James and Wade had their way with Indiana for the second straight game, scoring a respective 26 and 23 points. With Allen serving as their sidekick in the second half, Miami once again proved it can afford to sleepwalk, as long as it turns the switch on at the right time. However, flipping the switch is a trickier tactic for the Pacers.
The entire season in the Eastern Conference seemed to be building to this rematch. After all that hype, and the surprising trouble the Pacers endured to get this far in the NBA playoffs, it may now end up an anticlimactic flop at this rate.
Unless the Heat stumble longer in Game 4 on May 26, or the Pacers tighten things up, this may have the look of a five-game series -- if it doesn't already.